Common bronzewing – Phaps chalcoptera

A Common bronzewing showing its iridescent wing patches

Common bronzewings are a pigeon that many birders will travel some distance to see. They are Australia’s most widely spread pigeon but are only locally common, that means they will be found in good numbers in some areas, but then completely absent in other adjacent areas.

They favour woodlands and semi-cleared habitats, where there are always trees to retreat to. They are found in good numbers between Highfields and Crows Nest.

Like all pigeons they aren’t aggressive in their nature but instead rely on their ability to fly away rapidly. This is important for Common bronzewings as they feed exclusively on the ground. These strong flight muscles have meant though they make good eating, and many pigeons were commonly hunted in days gone by.

Common bronzewings are renowned for the brilliantly coloured iridescent patches on their wings, which change colour depending on the angle you are looking at them. This is a structural colouration which means the colour is produced by the constructive interference of light waves bouncing off different layers of melanin granules that the birds produce on their feathers in varying latices.

Common bronzewings breed from August to December, but will sometimes breed all year round if the conditions are suitable. They build a platform of twigs and usually lay two eggs. Sometimes they choose very exposed locations like the tops of shrubs and stumps. I’ve witnessed one breeding pair select a stump two seasons in a row only to have the eggs taken by goannas each time. After that they abandoned the site. For more on these beautiful birds see birdbites.com.au and the Bird Bites facebook and youtube channels.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 27th of November 2023